HONOURED: Goodna’s Keiron Butler in the pavilion near the cricket ground that will be named Eddie Gilbert Memorial Field.
HONOURED: Goodna’s Keiron Butler in the pavilion near the cricket ground that will be named Eddie Gilbert Memorial Field. Inga Williams

Big win for Eddie after grassroots campaign

EDDIE Gilbert had a field day every time he sent down thunderbolts throughout his illustrious cricket career.

Now, 37 years after his death, the legendary Aboriginal fast bowler will have a cricket field at Wacol named in his honour thanks to a grass roots campaign fought by Goodna locals.

It is a tribute to both Gilbert and the passion of Ipswich people that the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Field will be named on July 8 at a ceremony hosted by the Queensland Police Service and Public Safety Business Agency.

Gilbert, who took 87 wickets in 23 first-class matches for Queensland at an average of 29.98 and was described by Don Bradman as "the fastest ever seen", lived the latter years of his life at what was then called Wolston Park Hospital, where he also died at the age of 72.

Goodna's Keiron Butler, who once worked at the hospital now known as The Park Centre for Mental Health, said Gilbert would watch cricket matches on the field nearby.

Three years ago Mr Butler, with support from the community, launched a campaign to have the oval named for Gilbert.

"The naming of this field is recognition of Eddie, his culture and his achievements, and recognition of his later life at Wolston Park," Butler said.

"It is something for the community and people that worked there to remember him by."

Members of Gilbert's family will be in attendance at the naming ceremony.

Cr Paul Tully was a pillar of support to Mr Butler throughout his campaign and provided prescient advice.

"This shows how a local grass roots campaign has achieved a really good outcome to recognise Australia's greatest ever Aboriginal cricketer," Cr Tully said.

Queensland bowler Eddie Gilbert puts Donald Bradman on his backside during a Sheffield Shield match in 1931. Photo: Contributed
Queensland bowler Eddie Gilbert puts Donald Bradman on his backside during a Sheffield Shield match in 1931. Photo: Contributed Contributed

"It has been a long effort, involving community members and the family, and it will bring the name of Eddie Gilbert to the forefront for a lot of young people who may never have heard of him and not realised what he achieved."

The QT has written a stream of articles on Gilbert, his career and the tragic way his life ended due largely to entrenched racism that was inbuilt into the political system of his day.

There is no doubt he would have been a Test legend if given the chance.

Historian Colin Tatz has written how Gilbert was a virtual prisoner on Cherbourg's Barambah Aboriginal mission during his career, where he needed special permission to leave due to the 1897 Protection of Aboriginals Act.

Mr Butler said the police and both sides of politics were to be congratulated for ensuring the field, located on land owned by the Queensland Police Service, was named after Gilbert.

"I'd love to see all the hospital staff who knew Eddie and nursed him turn up on the day and acknowledge him," he said.

"I met him when we used to play cricket over there with the patients. Eddie would stand at the fence and look at the cricket but he didn't say much.

"They found him one night out on the pitch looking at it, no doubt thinking about his past.

"He was one of the best bowlers Australia has ever seen. He's no doubt the fastest. You can forget your Lillees and Thomsons. If they'd put a machine on Eddie he would have been faster.

"Even Bradman said that there was no-one quicker."

A photograph of Eddie Gilbert. Photo: Contributed
A photograph of Eddie Gilbert. Photo: Contributed Contributed

 



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